Be adaptable, SSA's CIO tells program managers

In our rapidly changing world, federal program managers face unprecedented pressures, said Thomas Hughes, chief information officer at the Social Security Administration.

Program managers must focus on the big picture — their agencies’ missions — not simply on plans for information technology projects, Hughes said Oct. 10 in his keynote address at the Program Management Summit 2007. The E-Gov Institute and 1105 Government Information Group, of which Federal Computer Week is a part, presented the summit.

“The collective goal of multiple projects is to achieve the long-term goals of the organization,” he said.

Pressures on program managers include those resulting from swift advances in technology, such as high-speed online videoconferencing, which gives agencies new abilities — and incentives — to collaborate.

“We have collaborative capabilities that we never imagined before,” Hughes said. “There’s a whole new sense of how you do collaboration. You better start thinking about collaboration.”

Demographic trends, such as an aging U.S. population, will also affect government program managers, he said. At SSA, “looking into the future, senior citizens will be the largest users of electronic services,” he said.

To grapple with the new pressures, program managers must develop communication skills and sell their business cases to agency executives. “The foundation of being a leader is communicating,” he said.

At the same time, program managers must think about future trends and try to anticipate them. “Remember, shift happens,” Hughes said.

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